Thousands of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon "are ready" to move to the Gaza Strip once Israel has completed it withdrawal from the territory, a Palestinan leader told
Adnkronos International (AKI) on Tuesday. "Despite the fact that in Lebanon there are no [Palestinian] refugees who come directly from Gaza or the West Bank, there are some 1,200 people in the refugee camps without identity documents who say that they originate from Gaza, said Suhayl Natur, a Beirut-based Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) leader.

The leftist DFLP for many yeras opposed Yasser Arafat's Al-Fatah movement, the largest Palestinian liberation faction, but these days supports the Palestinian Authority and its president, Al-Fatah chief, Mahmoud Abbas.

Some 400,000 Palestinians who were forced to flee or were expelled from their homes and lands at the time of the establishment of Israel in 1948 and again when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, live in Lebanon.

According to Natur, most of the Palestinian refugees who claim they originate from Gaza are the descendents of Palestinian fighters who arrived in Lebanon in the 60s and 70s from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. Others came from Arab nations such as
Jordan, especially after the bloody 1970 "Black September" crackdown by Jordanian authorities against the Palestinians.

"Even today, these 1.200 Palestinians are struggling to be recognized as refugees by the Lebanese state and by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA)."

"Now as Gaza is being liberated these Palestinians are ready to return to their land, but so are thousands of other Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who are not from the Gaza Strip.

"It is like a pilgrimage. Finally they will be able to touch a piece of their liberated land. Finally we will be able to breathe in the air of Palestine and see its sea," Natur told AKI.

Still, Natur said that such a return "would certainly not be immediate."
"The problem is as always defined by the Israeli authorities and who will control the border crossing into the Gaza Strip.

"If the southern frontier with Egypt is placed under Egyptian control, then a return to Gaza would become a real possibililty. But, if Israel continues to control all the access points to the Strip, then we will still have to wait some time to say the territory has really been liberated," said Natur.

But despite, such reservations, Natur says he does not wish to understimate the importance of the Israeli disengagement which kicked off on Monday.

"For the first time in its history, Israel is withdrawing from an occupied Palestinian territory without any concession from our side: this time there were no negotiations in which we were forced to conceed [to the Israelis]. It is our armed resistance that has pushed the Israeli government and in this sense, the withdrawal from Gaza is a signal to all those who continue to fight, especially in the West Bank, for the liberation of other land, and for the birth of an independent [Palestinian] state.

Source: Beirut- Stampa- 16/08/2005
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